Melbourne is known for its off-the-beaten-track bar scene, but a new walking tour proves its fashion is just as hard to find.
Over two nights, The Dapper Guide to Vertical Melbourne is offering an insider's glimpse into the 'upstairs downstairs' boutiques above or below ground level.
Rising rents have driven many of the city's trend-setters underground or sky high, and a savvy guide is helping fashionable gents traverse this hidden landscape.
Mark Boldiston, longtime Finders Lane dweller and owner of men's jewellery store Lord Coconut, has curated a free five-stop jaunt for Melbourne Spring Fashion Week.
Each of the businesses will provide its own unique spread, from Sailor Jerry and ginger beer to Laphroaig whisky and oysters.
There is a high number of gentlemen who are rebelling against the 'casual Friday' culture.Craig Cochrane
Lord of the rings
The tours begin at Boldiston's salon, perched four floors over Flinders Lane in a 1920s office building that you wouldn't stumble across on your average day shopping.
The eclectic boutique stocks a range of baubles for blokes, from unique wedding bands to one-off bracelets. Polished glass cabinets heave with taxidermy, cufflinks, pins, pendants, necklaces and more.
"It highlights the small businesses you might not know about, and gives people the story behind the pieces," he says.
And the theme of the evening? Definitely dapper. "We've seen an incredible groundswell in men's fashion recently, and there's a real momentum for men to look dapper and well put together."
The second stop on the tour is the marvellously old-school City Hatters, burrowed underneath the Flinders Street Station steps and virtually unchanged for 100 years.
Established in 1910, it stocks every conceivable type of hat, from trilby to fedora to one of the largest ranges of Akubras in the country. "We get everyone coming in here from goths wanting top hats, skater boys for Kangols, businessmen going to Ascot, retirees wanting flat-caps or Panama's," explains manager Craig Cochrane.
"There is a high number of gentlemen who are rebelling against the 'casual Friday' culture. They want to look good, because looking good helps them in their career and how they're perceived by those around them."
The tour rolls on to the Nicholas Building, home to some of Melbourne's most interesting retailers including three on the third floor: shoe maker Brendan Dwyer, manbag artisan Mattt Bags and Japanese designer doyenne dot.COMME.
After a quick stop at City Square wine bar La Vita Buona, the evening concludes at bespoke suit tailor Carl Nave's bolthole above Bourke Street.
"The tour celebrates a return to authenticity," says Nave. "It's about rejecting a generic experience, and building relationships with your jeweller, tailor, shoemaker. The dapper gent is involved in the process of putting it all together … and that's what all the businesses on this tour provide."